April 16, 2007

Wine Tasting Note: Fern Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2006, South Island, New Zealand

By Andrew Barrow In Wine Notes
Wine Tasting Note: Fern Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2006, South Island, New Zealand
It’s warm. By golly it feels like summer has arrived early! It probably won’t last, forever the pessimist me. Wine thoughts though turn to crisp, cool whites and easy drinking rosés. This inexpensive Sauvignon, with its clean, simplistic label caught the eye, not least for its £4.99 price point.
It’s a Tesco Exclusive, brought during one of my infrequent forays into the giant of UK retailing.
White WineWine Tasting Note: Fern Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2006, South Island, New Zealand.
Exclusive to Tesco for £4.99.
The South Island designation shows it is not a single vineyard bottling but rather a blend form grapes that have been sourced from across the whole of the island. As such I wasn’t expecting much. The aroma though is fine – fruity, green, if a little simplistic. The palate is stony, with a rather harsh, dominating acidity. Certainly crisp with a green and alcohol-evident, if long, finish. The texture is rather light and again, simplistic. Really no complexity or excitement on the watery palate at all, just the acidity that appears to grow with each sip. Unimpressed. Wish I had spent two quid more on a rather interesting Semillon-Sauvignon from two shelves down.

Scribblings Rating – 80/100
Simplistic Conclusion – avoid New Zealand Sauvignon’s under £7.
  1. Daniel Rees April 16, 2007

    You weren’t ‘expecting much’ but you still bought it! That just goes to show the power of Mr Tesco and that bright yellow 50% off label. I think you should have trusted your first instincts!
    I think you are right £7 seems about the minimum for a decent New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. By far the best value NZ SB I have found is Villa Maria Private Bin (Marlborough) (see http://www.villamaria.co.nz/search.php?wineid=216) which was outstanding at £6.39 each for two bottles from Majestic.
    I am just so sorry that I only bought two bottles as Majestic now seems to have sold out and I can’t find it in Oddbins either! Time to upgrade to the ‘Reserve’ I think!

  2. Tim Elliott April 17, 2007

    A review such as this with an 80 for a score is puzzling to me. I have a very stinky oldish Spanish Monastrell I’m writing up as in the 74-76 range… drinkable, yes, but not recommended. 80 to me is still somewhat of a recommendation but maybe that’s just me.

  3. Paul Newport April 17, 2007

    As an importer of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to the UK, I was delighted to read this post. Thank you for pointing out what everybody should know – the economics of producing quality Marlborough Sauvihgnon Blanc and exporting it to the otherside of the world make it very difficult, if not impossible, to market and sell it for £4.99. And I agree with your conclusion that you have to spend a couple of pounds more than this to get something returning value for money. I’ll make sure we send you one of ours that fits the value for money bill!

  4. Peter Robinson April 17, 2007

    Oyster Bay is a reliably good NZ SB; currently at £6.99 at Majestic, but buy 2 and they come down to £5.49 a bottle until 30 April

  5. Andrew April 18, 2007

    This should teach me to read the label properly before placing in the basket! It wasn’t totally undrinkable, I’ve had worse, hence the just above 70 score.
    I’ve had many a more interesting New Zealand SB, I must get round to writing up the notes! Although Oyster Bay, quite ubiquitous around these here parts, is not amongst them.

  6. Giles Wood April 19, 2007

    Wow – this wine scored an 80. I now live on the South Island of NZ and I dare say it was clean tasting and competant if a little acidic and lacking in flavour or body. The thing is that it is virtually impossible to retail a NZ wine in the UK at #4.99 and make a profit. However the industry here keeps getting bigger – 24,000 hectares under vine – that’s more than 3 times what it was in 1999! And it can’t all be Marlborough. The wine in this bottle was almost certainly made with grapes from newly planted vineyards in Waipara (it means muddy water in Maori) – well someones got to drink it and I’m afraid the Tesco customer’s willingness to buy almost anything NZ at #4.99 is legend. Oyster Bay SB is ok and I heartily recommend Villa Maria SB (it’s my everyday tipple here) but look out for great handmade wines from Nelson like Siegfried or Palliser from Martinborough – or if you get a chance Pegasus Bay from Waipara.
    Cheers – Giles

  7. Martin Snell May 11, 2008

    As a New Zealander currently working in Prague, I was intrigued to find not only Tesco has established itself there with more than one outlet, but also to see Fern Bay stocked for Kc200, ca. GBP6,30. I had never heard of the ‘vineyard’ or label before and resisted the temptation to buy a bottle to quell the rising feelings of home-sickness in my breast. On my all-too-infrequent visits to New Zealand I have been amazed to see the increased number and quality of wine producers. With Fern Bay I thought I would do some research via http://www.nzwine.com, which is an invaluable and reliable source for locating stockists and importers of NZ wine for those of us living as ex-patriots. Fern Bay was not listed among the producers. By chance I have come across this review on Spittoon. Personally, I think it is a deception that is being played out upon an unsuspecting public to call this a NZ sauvignon blanc. Sure, the price raised eyebrows as did a label imitating, at first glance, the infinitely more reputable Cloud Bay. It may ‘hoodwink’ the more unsuspecting but ultimately only undermines the fine reputation of NZ wines, which has been established over many years through hard graft, ingenuity and imagination. Shame on Tesco for this disservice and disception. There is no mention on the label that it is a blend. Thanks to Spittoon for warning me off!

  8. cynthia campbell September 7, 2008

    We love all your newzealand wines i have been twice to newzealand and tasted your wines and we tell all our friends we dont drink anythink but newzealand wines but at the momwe weent we cannot get fern bay we go into tescos daily and two weeks have gone by but still no fern bay we will continue to try,


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